50-ton freighter powered by wind

In a return to the age of the clipper, a French company is using a sailing boat to ply the trade routes that pre-dated steam power – and delivering wine and chocolate to environmentally conscious customers on either side of the Atlantic.

Sleek and light like its larger predecessors, the aluminium-hulled “Grain de Sail” was custom built in a French shipyard and combines the technology used in modern yachts with a hold that can accommodate up to 50 tonnes of cargo.

It docked at Saint-Nazaire, in France’s northwestern Brittany region, on Monday with 33 tonnes of cacao – the raw ingredient for chocolate – after a three-month round trip.

The boat…set off from Brittany in November carrying 15,000 bottles of French organic wine and crewed by just four sailors…It delivered that cargo to New York four weeks later and then set course for the Dominican Republic to pick up the cacao that the company will now roast in France.

Delightful news. And a helluva way to run a company. Old-fashioned transport brought up-to-date. Great wine sold to pay for the raw materials to make great chocolate.

J&J + Merck moves vaccine schedule ahead by 2 months!


Jim Watson/Getty

With a White House-brokered deal, vaccine giant Merck has agreed to help Johnson & Johnson boost its COVID-19 vaccine production, which is woefully behind on its manufacturing schedule.

President Joe Biden announced today that, with the new deal, the country is on track to have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to vaccinate every adult in the country by the end of May — two months ahead of earlier plans.

Merck—a powerhouse in vaccine production, responsible for the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine among others—will dedicate two US facilities to making the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine. One facility will make the vaccine and the other will provide final-stage “fill and finish” services, involving aliquoting vaccine into vials and packaging them. The help from Merck stands to perhaps double J&J’s manufacturing.

Getting what can be done on time – accomplished early.

Women are more likely to donate to charities than men of equal means

…Major donors, people who give away massive sums of money, are becoming more diverse. More are women and 50 years old or younger…As scholars of how women give and global philanthropy, we’ve learned that women overall are more likely to give, and give more, than men, and these differences can be seen in a variety of ways.

Gender differences in giving are especially notable among single women and single men. Holding factors like income and wealth constant, about 51% of single women indicated they would give to charity, compared with 41% of single men. Women are also more likely than men to give to charity as their income rises…

Women also show a greater preference for collective giving and other collaborative charitable efforts than men. Most people who take part in giving circles are women.

Interesting article. Worth the read not only within the topic; but, other related avenues leading to the same questions.

Public health, public policy in the Trump era

This report by the Lancet Commission on Public Policy and Health in the Trump Era assesses the repercussions of President Donald Trump’s health-related policies and examines the failures and social schisms that enabled his election.

Trump exploited low and middle-income white people’s anger over their deteriorating life prospects to mobilise racial animus and xenophobia and enlist their support for policies that benefit high-income people and corporations and threaten health.

His signature legislative achievement, a trillion-dollar tax cut for corporations and high-income individuals, opened a budget hole that he used to justify cutting food subsidies and health care. His appeals to racism, nativism, and religious bigotry have emboldened white nationalists and vigilantes, and encouraged police violence and, at the end of his term in office, insurrection. He chose judges for US courts who are dismissive of affirmative action and reproductive, labour, civil, and voting rights; ordered the mass detention of immigrants in hazardous conditions; and promulgated regulations that reduce access to abortion and contraception in the USA and globally…

Click through to the article. Registration is free and gives you access to the complete report.

Fertile Soil Gone From Midwestern Farms


Evan Thaler/NPR

Farming has destroyed a lot of the rich soil of America’s Midwestern prairie. A team of scientists just came up with a staggering new estimate for just how much has disappeared…

The new study emerged from a simple observation, one that people flying over Midwestern farms can confirm for themselves. The color of bare soil varies, and that variation is related to soil quality.

The soil that’s darkest in color is widely known as topsoil. Soil scientists call this layer the “A-horizon.” It’s the “black, organic, rich soil that’s really good for growing crops,” says Evan Thaler, a Ph.D. student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

It’s full of living microorganisms and decaying plant roots, also called organic carbon. When settlers first arrived in the Midwest, it was everywhere, created from centuries of accumulated prairie grass. Plowing, though, released much of the trapped carbon, and topsoil was also lost to wind and water erosion. The soil that remains is often much lighter in color.

RTFA. The history isn’t unknown. The effects are still (sometimes) debated. It takes many tons of additives annually to keep productivity and profitability close to each other. Healthy? That’s another question.

Texas money loves their version of class warfare


Dan Christian Rojas/AP

Texas has the third-highest number of billionaires in America, most of them oil tycoons. Last week, the laissez-faire state energy market delivered a bonanza to oil and gas producers that managed to keep production going during the freeze. It was “like hitting the jackpot”, boasted the president of Comstock Resources on an earnings call. Jerry Jones, billionaire owner of the Dallas Cowboys, holds a majority of Comstock’s shares.

But most other Texans were marooned. Some did perish…

Lower-income Texans, white as well as Black and Latino, are taking it on the chin in many other ways. Texas is one of the few states that hasn’t expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, leaving the share of Texans without health insurance twice the national average, the largest uninsured population of any state. Texas has double the national average of children in poverty and a higher rate of unemployment than the nation’s average.

The tactic isn’t new, of course. Standard operating procedure for the top of the money pile for decades, centuries. Owning and controlling mass communications and political parties in the two main streams of pop culture politics remains the usual drill. Still, there is an insurgency growing…and I doubt Texas can continue to be the Lone Star exception.

Texas Republicans should take responsibility for their Cheapskate Disaster

The Texas grid failure that’s left millions struggling without power in freezing conditions has ignited a feud between Democrats and the GOP over Republicans’ decades-long oversight of the energy industry and prompted calls for a system more resilient to extreme weather conditions.

Texas has avoided federal regulation by establishing its own power grid that’s nearly cut off from the rest of the country — an isolated system that conservatives in power have long praised.

But the system collapsed this week from a surge in energy demand coupled with frozen utility plants during a brutal winter storm, which then increased energy prices and triggered the state’s worst blackouts in decades…

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, D-TX, blamed Texas Republican leaders for prioritizing “stupid culture wars,” like efforts to make Texas a gun “sanctuary state,” rather than protecting residents from extreme weather events made worse by climate change.

“So much of this was avoidable,” O’Rourke said this week on an interview with MSNBC. “Going back to the deregulation of our electricity grid in Texas, which has created an incentive to actually not weatherize or protect against these events.”

“The energy capital of North America cannot provide enough energy to warm and power people’s homes,” O’Rourke continued. “We are nearing a failed state in Texas. And it has nothing to do with God or natural disasters. It has everything to do with those in positions of public trust who have failed us.”

Texas worked harder than any other state to substitute Republican slogans for technology, science or good sense. The citizens of Texas suffered the logical result of ignorant partisan politics.

Republican party hacks deserve to be thrown out of office for acting like obedient pawns in the game of economic life.

The new Boom Towns are ZOOM TOWNS

First, there were boomtowns. Now, there are Zoom towns.

The coronavirus pandemic is leading to a new phenomenon: a migration to “gateway communities,” or small towns near major public lands and ski resorts as people’s jobs increasingly become remote-friendly. This is straining the towns’ resources and putting pressure on them to adapt.

There has been a drastic increase in remote work since March, when the pandemic hit the U.S. Nearly 60% of employees are now working remotely full or part time, according to a recent Gallup poll. Nearly two-thirds of employees who have been working remotely would like to continue to do so, according to that same poll. That would seemingly give workers a lot more flexibility when it comes to where they call home.

For more than two decades, working from home or on the road was how I earned my living. Piece of cake. Portable computers became as important a piece of hardware as a reliable car. The road stuff I adapted to aren’t even a problem for the growing number of folks who can do everything they need – from home.

Most institutional workplace “experts” think the overwhelming majority of folks working remotely will rush back to the office habitat. Even a cynic like me doesn’t agree. The social and personal culture of an enforced collective workplace ain’t a kibbutz by any stretch of the imagination.

Is this a brand worth buying?

With extremely rare exception, I watch Fox NOTHING! If they approached reasonable humanity, someday, in the political management of their content, I’d consider changing my attitude. Of course.

There is also no shortage of great sports programming, short fiction, long-form film-making, musical entertainment…you name it…to be found within the multiplicity of channels streaming from watchable sources available damned near everywhere. More than I can keep up with.

So, screw the pricks sucking up advertising dollar$ that benefit the current and future waves of fascist, racist, bigoted ideology that keeps the shit-end of human beings from being as poverty-stricken as their hearts and cruel minds.